This article discusses the primary team of caregivers who are involved in the care of your infant in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). The staff often includes the following:
ALLIED HEALTH PROFESSIONAL
This health care provider is a nurse practitioner or physician assistant. He or she works under the supervision of a neonatologist. An allied health professional may have more experience in patient care than a resident, but will not have had the same amount of education and training.
ATTENDING DOCTOR (NEONATOLOGIST)
The attending doctor is the main doctor responsible for your baby's care. The attending doctor has completed fellowship training in neonatology and residency training in pediatrics, usually lasting three years each. This doctor, called a neonatologist, is a pediatrician with special training in caring for babies who are sick and require intensive care after birth.
Although there are many different people involved in your baby's care while in the NICU, it is the neonatologist who determines and coordinates the daily plan of care. At times, the neonatologist might consult with other specialists to help with your baby's care.
A neonatology fellow is a doctor who has completed a residency in general pediatrics and is now training in neonatology.
A medical student is someone who has not yet completed medical school. The medical student might examine and manage a patient in the hospital, but needs to have all of his or her orders reviewed and approved by a doctor.
NEONATAL INTENSIVE CARE UNIT (NICU) NURSE
This type of nurse has received special training in caring for babies in the NICU. Nurses play a very important role in monitoring the baby and supporting and educating the family. Of all the caregivers in the NICU, nurses usually spend the most time at a baby's bedside caring for the baby, as well as the family. A nurse might also be a member of the NICU transport team or become an extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) specialist after special training.
A pharmacist is a professional with education and training in the preparation of medications used in the NICU. Pharmacists help prepare medications such as antibiotics, immunizations, or intravenous (IV) solutions, such as total parenteral nutrition (TPN).
A dietitian or nutritionist is a professional who is educated and trained in nutrition. This includes human milk, vitamin and mineral supplements, and preterm infant formulas used in the NICU. Dietitians help monitor what babies are fed, how their bodies respond to the food, and how they grow.
Residents are doctors who have completed medical school and are training in a medical specialty. In pediatrics, the residency training takes 3 years.
A surgeon is a doctor with special training in the diagnosis and care of conditions that require surgery. A pediatric surgeon has more advanced training in surgery for children. Surgeons are asked to see babies in the NICU who may need surgery for birth defects or conditions that occur after birth, such as necrotizing enterocolitis. Surgeons might also be asked to place central catheters in babies who need long-term intravenous fluids.
Residents are part of the surgical team. A general surgery residency takes 4 years and includes some training in pediatric surgery. Some centers also have fellowship programs in pediatric surgery. A pediatric surgery fellow has completed general surgery residency and is training to become a pediatric surgeon.
Physicians from other specialties, such as pediatric cardiology or pediatric surgery, may be part of consultant teams involved in caring for babies in the NICU. For more information see: NICU consultants and support staff
Newborn intensive care unit - staff; Neonatal intensive care unit - staff
Updated by: Kimberly G Lee, MD, MSc, IBCLC, Associate Professor of Pediatrics, Division of Neonatology, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, SC. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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